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Washington Healthplanfinder Sees Competitive Health Plan Options for Consumers

Several issuers in individual market; Small business market to open in select counties 

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Starting Oct. 1, 2013, Washington Healthplanfinder will offer some residents coverage options with lower insurance premiums to go along with increased benefits.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange learned this week that nine health insurance issuers have filed with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) to  provide 57 Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) totaling 229 plan options for individuals and families throughWashington Healthplanfinder, the state’s new online health insurance marketplace.

“This is great news for residents in our state. The rates we’ve seen filed in the individual market will go a long way to help individuals and families get the right coverage at an affordable price,” said Richard Onizuka, Chief Executive Officer for Washington Healthplanfinder.

Washington Healthplanfinder will allow shoppers to find a plan that fits their needs and their budget by offering side-by-side comparisons of health plans based on a variety of factors such as cost, physician networks and quality improvement strategies.

In partnership with the OIC, the Exchange will review the 57 QHPs submitted for participation to ensure they offer required essential health benefits under the Affordable Care Act, while also meeting other state and regulatory requirements. Qualifying plans will be certified by the Exchange.

Additionally, the Exchange Board took action yesterday to approve the debut of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) in select counties beginning Oct. 1, 2013. The Board action was required due to limited carrier participation in the SHOP that did not allow the Exchange to offer coverage options statewide.  The counties, still to be determined, will be serviced by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest.

“We are delighted to be working with Kaiser to provide small business options in our state,” said Onizuka.  “While we were disappointed we did not have more participation in the SHOP, this new approach allows us to continue our commitment to providing health coverage options for Washington’s small businesses.”

The Exchange staff worked closely with insurance issuers on both the individual and small business market offerings. Many issuers cited the difficulty in preparing products for the SHOP.

“Like our individual market, the SHOP was prepared to be operationally ready on Oct. 1. Ultimately, insurers informed us their inability to participate was a resource issue,” added Onizuka. “Additional issuers have expressed interest in participating in the SHOP market starting October 2014, which will provide small businesses with more robust coverage options.”

Changes to the SHOP will have no effect on the market for individuals and families, which accounts for 98 percent of the Exchange’s January 1, 2014 enrollment target. Individuals making up to $45,960 and a family of four making up to $94,200 a year will be eligible for savings on their health insurance costs next fall.

More information about Washington Healthplanfinder and the Washington Health Benefit Exchange is available at www.wahbexchange.org

About the Washington Health Benefit Exchange

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is a public-private partnership established in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) with the goal to redefine people’s experience with health care through the creation of a new health insurance marketplace for individuals and small businesses. The Exchange is separate from the state and governed by an independent 11-member board appointed by Gov. Gregoire in December 2011.

About Washington Healthplanfinder

Washington Healthplanfinder will be a new online marketplace for individuals, families and small businesses in Washington to compare and enroll in health insurance coverage and gain access to tax credits, reduced cost sharing, and public programs such as Medicaid.Washington Healthplanfinder will begin enrolling consumers on October 1, 2013, for health insurance coverage beginning on January 1, 2014.

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